The translation and commercialisation of medicines and technologies is a long and complex process that can cost billions of dollars. While these advances have the potential to disrupt industries and improve the quality of life for patients, only a small fraction of these ever “escape” the laboratory and fulfil their potential.
Identifying market applications in the early stages of research is essential for developing a successful treatment. This means putting “users” at the centre of thinking and design. While patients are the “end users” of novel medicines and technologies, doctors also play a crucial role in this process. To ensure widespread adoption, doctors need to be comfortable prescribing and administering new medicines and technologies to patients.
To this end, ARMI is excited to welcome Dr Meroula Richardson and Dr Patrick Hughes, two clinicians with extensive experience in clinical medicine, to the ARMI Leadership Advisory Board (ARMILAB). Both Meroula and Patrick will be able to provide a doctor’s perspective and valuable insight to ARMI researchers on the application and translation of their projects.
Dr Patrick Hughes graduated from Monash Medical School in 1977 with a medical specialisation in anaesthesia. In addition to Patrick’s practical experience, ranging from paediatrics to major reconstructive airway surgeries in both Australia and the UK, he has also contributed to anaesthesiology research with 15 publications. Dr Meroula Richardson, on the other hand, is a cardiologist with 35 years of experience in practising procedural clinical medicine. She has travelled worldwide and made connections with doctors, cardiac researchers and patients from London to rural outreach clinics in Bairnsdale.
A considerable part of a doctor’s role is to communicate with their patients and make medical plans for them. Very few understand a patient’s needs more than doctors. With extensive experience in clinical medicine, Patrick and Meroula have connected with thousands of patients. They can bring insightful advice from a clinician’s perspective on any potential issues in the early stages of research and development at ARMI. The definition of a “good drug” can be very different in the eyes of an academic researcher compared to that of a doctor. While researchers often place greater value on potency and efficacy, doctors must consider many other factors, including patients’ quality of life, regimen and compliance, and any potential risks or side effects.
By considering all user groups, from patients to doctors and nurses, ARMI is embracing a human-centred design approach and joining the innovative frontier of the biomedical research sector. Doing so can avoid failures and pitfalls. Indeed, the failure of the influenza inhaler drug Relenza was considered one of the biggest flops in the pharmaceutical industry due to a lack of market sensitivity. In 1999, when Relenza was first developed and approved, it was seen as a breakthrough influenza drug as it was found to reduce flu duration by 25-30% and severity of symptoms by as much as 40%. However, the drug’s efficacy depends largely on the ability of the patient to use the inhaler properly and its window of efficacy of 48 hours, meaning it must be started within two days of having flu symptoms. The failure of Relenza was mainly due to the lack of consideration of user needs during the stage of research and development. Most patients prefer a tablet over other administration pathways, and taking the drug during the short efficacy window was impractical, especially for people living in rural areas.
With a number of projects from ARMI’s regenerative medicine research program nearing commercialisation, now is the time to prepare for the future. With the Victorian Heart Hospital, Australia’s first hospital dedicated to cardiac care, due to be completed this year at the Monash University Clayton campus, and having Meroula and Patrick as part of ARMILAB, ARMI is geared towards further enhancing its clinical linkages.
“At ARMI, we have talent and input from industry and the academic and healthcare sectors. The insights provided at the interface between these makes commercialisation and adoption of new medicines and technologies possible,” said Silvio Tiziani, the Director of External Strategy and Planning at ARMI.